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Ginn Goes Off

Posted Sep 11, 2011

In the first win of the Jim Harbaugh era, the third phase of the game served to be prime reason for the 49ers victory. Sure, Ted Ginn Jr. stole the show late with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the entire special teams unit turned in a complete effort on Sunday in the 33-17 season-opening win over Seattle.

With about four minutes left in the game, Ginn was merely yards away from sealing up Sunday’s victory, hoisting the ball high over his head. But as he raced down the right sideline, Ginn got a bit distracted a few yards before he reached pay dirt.

“I looked up at the jumbotron and saw there was a guy behind me,” Ginn said.

No worries, as Ginn tucked the ball back into his arms and made it to the end zone safely, capping off a 102-yard kickoff return and nailing down the win.

As breath-taking as Ginn’s return was, he still had some gas left in the tank. Less than a minute had ticked off the game clock and Ginn was celebrating in the end zone again, this time following a 55-yard punt return.

Before Ginn put his stamp on the final sequence of the game, Seattle held the second-half momentum. Despite trailing 16-0 at the intermission, the Seahawks cut their deficit to 19-17 with Doug Baldwin’s 55-yard touchdown reception. As it turns out, Baldwin’s big play was a blessing in disguise, as it set the table for Ginn’s grand finale.

“Special teams starts the game and finishes the game,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “Clearly the special teams finished the game.”

Ginn was awarded the game ball after the contest, but he was hardly the lone star for the 49ers special teams on Sunday. Punter Andy Lee booted the ball for an average of 59.6 yards and kicker David Akers converted all four of his field goal attempts while adding three extra points.

“He’s mister automatic,” wideout Joshua Morgan said of Akers. “We’re not trying to jinx him, but I haven’t seen him miss since he’s been here. And with Ted, I would do anything for that speed, I think anybody would.”

Alongside Ginn’s dramatics was the steady play of the 49ers punt and kickoff coverage units. Seattle return specialist Leon Washington torched San Francisco during last year’s meetings but was held in check on Sunday, something that wasn’t lost on the 49ers.

“That was big, man. We talked about Leon being one of the top returners in the league,” Walker said. “So coming out here and doing what we did shows a lot. I think we’ve got a lot more to come, though, to get better.”

In fact, Walker was singled out by Harbaugh during his post-game press conference, who called him an “animal out there on kickoff coverage.” Not only did Walker help contain Washington, racking up four special teams tackles in the process, but he said he takes pride in blocking as well.

Ginn became just the 12th player in NFL history to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game, and the first to ever do it on NFL Kickoff Weekend. Not bad for 61 seconds of work.

“I didn’t think they were going to come right back and kick it to me, punt it to me,” Ginn said. “I just tried to make them pay for – and I did.”

It wasn’t exactly uncharted territory for Ginn, who returned two kickoffs for scores during the 2009 season when he was with the Miami Dolphins. Current 49ers teammate Braylon Edwards was on the opposite sideline with the New York Jets during that eventful night two seasons ago, but he was happy to be wearing red and gold on Sunday.

“I’ve seen this before,” Edwards said. “I’m happy I can be on his team now and enjoy it instead of watching it on the sidelines.”

Still, even Ginn was a bit surprised he was able to score 12 points in a matter of moments. From the reactions of his teammates, perhaps they were, too. One by one, they approached Ginn for high fives and congratulations has he gathered his breath, sitting on the bench. Ginn became the first 49er to ever run a kick and punt back for touchdowns in the same game, while setting a franchise record with 268 return yards.

“You do it on the video games a lot,” Ginn said. “But you don’t really see it too much in real life.”

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